Bharatti Crack is a senior HR Consultant, high performing technical coach and social mobility expert with experience gained over thirty years in the corporate world. Throughout her career she has worked in a multi-cultural environment, leading HR teams across Europe, Middle East and Africa and mentoring regional executives in North America and Asia. Bharatti has a natural empathy and deep understanding of the complexities and demands on HR leaders within multi stakeholder environments.
Social mobility is when a person’s social background impacts the opportunities open to them throughout their life. This means that people born into lower income families, regardless of their talent or potential, don’t have the same access to opportunities and networks as those born into more affluent families. Disappointingly, the UK has one of the poorest rates of social mobility in the developed world.
Leaders recognise the value strong diversity and inclusion brings to their organisations in the shape of new ideas, innovation, creativity, different viewpoints and perspective. In my opinion, social mobility is the foundation pillar of D&I as it cuts across all categories; ethnicity, disability, gender, sexuality etc. This was highlighted in a recent report by the Education Select Committee, which identified ‘under-investment in education in deprived areas of the UK as having a direct impact on white working-class underachievement in education.’
As an HR professional and passionate advocate for the inclusion of social mobility in wider D&I conversations, my mantra has always been ‘talent not background.’ Everyone, irrespective of their upbringing, should be able to achieve their full potential. In order to retain diverse talent, it is essential that the culture of the organisation is welcoming and open to supporting, encouraging and nurturing talent from all backgrounds. As leaders, we must be aware of the pitfalls. If we focus on talent acquisition alone, then all the efforts made to onboard new joiners will be lost if we haven’t also addressed the culture. Transparency and respect are key to creating a sense of belonging amongst all employees, which then allows them to be their best at work. They should be able to ‘bring themselves to work’ and not feel pressure to assimilate. Therefore, incorporating social mobility in the wider D&I conversation is not only good for your business, but society too.
Two primary causes of low social mobility, economic and educational inequality, have worsened as a result of the pandemic. A 2020 LSE study entitled, Covid 19 and Social Mobility, branded Britain’s young, people under 25 years of age, ‘The Covid Generation’. This lost generation are faced with the prospect of rising economic and social inequalities. It is estimated that 60% of the jobs lost since the pandemic have been amongst 18 to 24 year olds - a worrying statistic and a societal concern. The challenge for employers is how they make a positive impact on this population and create meaningful opportunities. Introducing apprenticeships or trainee roles, developing relationships with local schools and colleagues through offering work experience and encouraging staff to mentor young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are all good starting points to help address the issue.
The increasing focus on ESG, D&I and CSR from investors and shareholders also introduces a challenge for businesses. The impact an organisation has on its community, in many instances, affects the bottom line. It is therefore imperative that leaders demonstrate their commitment to inclusive policies, including practices that look to address social mobility issues.
There are organisations, The Social Mobility Pledge for example, designed to offer practical support to employers around social mobility. Co-founded by the former MP, Justine Greening, and entrepreneur David Harrison, the organisation works in collaboration with charities such as the Sutton Trust and the Big Issue, to encourage businesses to take the pledge. The pledge requires a commitment to Outreach, Access and Recruitment, with the objective of providing more opportunities to people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
In addition to this, The Social Mobility Foundation Employer Index is a practical guide to improving a business’s social mobility commitments. The Index is comprised of two elements, questions for employers and an employee survey. The former assesses employers’ work across seven areas: their work with young people, routes into the business, how staff are attracted, recruitment and selection, data collection, progression and promotion of staff and experienced hires and advocacy. Employers are then benchmarked against one another based on the results.
Data is captured nationally via government organisations. The Social Mobility Index of England, for example, uncovers the geography of disadvantage in England. For decades the conventional wisdom has been that geographical inequalities in social mobility are drawn across simple boundaries: the North versus the South; rich areas versus poor areas; town versus country. This index digs deeper than that and can really help pinpoint the social mobility coldspots across the country. Additionally, the Social Mobility Barometer 2021 gives a timely snapshot of where the coronavirus pandemic has impacted most, who has suffered and what needs to be done by government and organisations alike to improve the inequality.
In order to progress the social mobility conversation within organisations and implement good practices, businesses should sign up to the Social Mobility Foundation Employer Index which provides benchmark data, best practice examples and a league table.